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WWE 2K23 Hands-On Preview: Visual Concepts Flex Their Muscles

The WWE 2K23 release is only a few weeks away, but how is Visual Concepts latest outing shaping up?
WWE 2K23 Hands-On Preview: Visual Concepts Flex Their Muscles

It wasn't long ago that WWE 2K20 was taking a pasting from critics and fans alike for being, how do we put it nicely, a little rough around the edges, but the important thing to note here is that the 2K and the studio learned from the issues and gave the team a two-year window to correct things. 

The resulting WWE 2K22 was a marked improvement and came out swinging in more ways than one. But with Visual Concepts once again shifting their latest entry in the grappling series, WWE 2K23, to just a year window of development time, its understandable fans might be about as nervous as Randy Orton sweating over the Undertaker at Survivor Series 2005.

Thankfully, we're pleased to say that our hands-on with a “work in progress” build of WWE 2K23 was more or less flawless. Granted, one bug left Edge in a crumpled mess in the corner during one particular match, but then again... he is getting on a bit now so we're happy to look past it. The point is, WWE 2K23 looks like it's here to rumble, and won't be a straight Bushwhacker Luke-style elimination from your game library should you choose to buy it.

WWE 2K23 John Cena
Do you have what it takes to BEAT John Cena in his iconic 2K Showcase?

The star of the show this year is John Cena, who takes up the mantle as the game's latest focus for the popular '2K Showcase' story-based mode. Long-time fans might recall that Cena previously featured in the 2K15 Showcase, but back then it focused more heavily on the rivalry with CM Punk from 2011 to 2013.

This year, the showcase and Cena return, but with a twist. Although it will chronicle the superstar's 20-year WWE career, players will actually take control of several of Cena's "toughest competitors" from Rob Van Dam, to Kurt Angle. 

Speaking as a super-casual fan of WWE without an encyclopedic knowledge of every historic matchup, it's certainly refreshing getting to experience the career of Cena, without also being forced to play through every match as the man himself.

Variety is the spice of life after all, so being forced to pull on the spandex for multiple characters on the roster who I might otherwise never pick feels like a smart and rewarding approach for the Showcase ultimately.

Of course, regular fans of the series are more likely to be enticed into buying WWE 2K23 by the introduction of an often-requested fan-favorite match: WarGames.

WWE 2K23 McIntyre and Reigns
Hell in a Cell, and then some

Now, if you've never encountered this particular brand of chaos, that's understandable, because it's hardly a common match-up in the WWE. Whilst we've all heard of a steel cage match, or various other marquee events, WarGames requires two rings side-by-side, housed inside a huge steel cage.

These matchups normally see two teams going toe-to-toe, but uniquely, it starts with one member apiece, with the members of both teams entering at staggered intervals. This means you might have to face a 2v1 for a few minutes before your pals come to the rescue. Once both teams have all entered the ring, the match (finally) begins, with the first team to score a submission or over a member of the opposing team.

As you can imagine, WarGames is ALOT of fun, and about as hectic and frantic as you can imagine, not least when you throw in a few tables, chairs, and stop signs too. In WWE 2K23 players are limited to either 3v3 and 4v4, which as we learned talking to the team at Visual Concepts, was quite a difficult task in and of itself.

There are some unique animations specifically designed for this mode too, so it's clear to see the developers have put in the legwork to bring the unique mode to life with greater purpose than simply slapping two rings together. Of course, we'll reserve full judgment until we've had more hours to play around with the game at launch.

WWE 2K23 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Fans can still look forward to a deep roster of WWE Superstars and Legends

Based on our limited time with WWE 2K23, it certainly feels as though the game is making strides in the right direction, with some smart twists on the usual formula, but without it feeling as though the dev team had to rush another entry out the door within the shorter development timeframe. Whether you're a regular buyer of the series, or a complete newcomer looking to step into the ring for the first time, WWE 2K23 could be shaping up for a clean finish and giving Wrestling fans plenty of reasons to get their mitts on the brawler when it launches this March.